The Visceral Imagination: Dialogue Series on Imagination in Research and Teaching Begins

By Samuel Chen (Research Assistant, SFU Education Research Assistant)

This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the Possible’s Slow Fuse’s inaugural session featuring Dr. Celeste Snowber. This is the first in a six part Dialogue series being co-hosted between the Research Hub and CIRCE.  Being new to the Faculty of Education and having just been hired on as a Research Assistant with the Research Hub, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I decided to go because I have seen Celeste’s Research in Focus video about embodied inquiry and was intrigued by the idea of a visceral imagination.  It also gave me a chance to visit the beautiful SFU Surrey Campus which I don’t go to often except when I go to “visit the library” for a drink.

I arrived at room 5080 which was bustling with energy (and snacks) 20 minutes before the official start time and was surprised to find a lot of Faculty amongst a few grad students.  I jumped right in as I thought to myself, this is a wonderful way to meet and speak with professors I usually wouldn’t get a chance to interact with.

One of the first people I met was Dr. Gillian Judson who is the Executive Director of the Center for Imagination in Research Culture and Education (CIRCE). I was so deeply engrossed in conversation that I hardly noticed the session starting.

“Visceral imagination is like building a sand castle as a child – it is messy and rooted in our bodies.”

Celeste’s metaphor was a great way to begin the session and what began as an extended reflection gave way to an incredible dance which poetically reminded us that our bodies are both the pathway and threshold for finding an optimal psychological state for deep engagement, concentration and focus.  The performance also reminded us how we bully our bodies by scrunching it up for hours on end in chairs and behind desks while our bodies yearn to expand, extend and inspire.

We are bodies (not just have bodies) and they are a canvas for creativity, a pathway for inspired researching, writing, teaching, mentoring and artmaking.  Our bodies are constantly speaking but are we listening?

I was surprised to learn that Thoreau would saunter for at least four hours through the woods, hills and fields as part of his daily writing practice.  Many great writers, thinkers and scientists find their inspiration through walking.  I started wondering whether each time I experience writer’s block, is my body just trying to tell me I am being unkind to myself and that I need to stand-up, stretch and move-about?

Celeste left us with a challenge to examine our own somatic practices and to continue wandering into wonder.

Being a Dialogue series, the presentation was followed by short responses by pre-designated members sharing about how the content related to their fields of practice. Each responder was asked to think about

  • What is the relationship between the body and cultivating a relationship to the imagination? In other words what would the visceral imagination mean for you?
  • What would it mean to bring your bodies to teaching, research and practice?What would it mean to have your imagination infused with all your senses and connected to your teaching and research?

For this session Dr. Allan MacKinnon, Dr. Paula Rosehart, Carolina Bergonzoni, Dr. Zuzana Vasko shared.  It was a very fertile exploration of how the visceral imagination interfaces across different practices ranging from pen-turning with exotic woods, to teacher education, to dance, to somataphorical inquiry, to questions of the seat of the soul and embodied imagination.  I was amazed at the deep reverence each person spoke about how they related to the concepts within their community of practice.   The audience also had rich opportunities to ask questions and respond as well.

This was a very provocative session that exposed me to research and a field of practice that is new and refreshing.  I am inspired to examine how I can embody my research in a fuller, more organic integration of mind, heart and body.

I can’t think of a better way to engage in the community and learning together. I hope to see you at the next Possible’s Slow Fuse event which will be held on April 2 with Dr. Kevin O’Neill.


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